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Valentina Sampaio makes history as first trans model to feature in Sports Illustrated

Josh Milton July 12, 2020
Brazilian trans model Valentina Sampaio. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Brazilian trans model Valentina Sampaio. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Appearing on the glossy front cover of Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue has long been a coveted addition to any model’s portfolio.

But now, Valentina Sampaio has become the first trans model to grace the edition in the magazine’s 56-year-long history.

The 23-year-old Brazillian-born activist said she hopes the “groundbreaking issue” will open people’s eyes to the persecution and discrimination LGBT+ continue to face.

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I am excited and honored to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The team at SI has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multitalented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way. I was born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil. Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also hosts the highest number of violent crimes and murders against the trans community in the world—three times that of the U.S. Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds. We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing. Our options for growing up in a loving and accepting family, having a fruitful experience at school or finding dignified work are unimaginably limited and challenging. 💜🧡💛❤️💚

A post shared by Valentina Sampaio (@valentts) on

Valentina Sampaio: ‘Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds.’

“I am excited and honoured to be part of the iconic Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” she wrote in an Instagram post uploaded Saturday (July 11).

“The team at SI has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multitalented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way.

“I was born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil. Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also hosts the highest number of violent crimes and murders against the trans community in the world—three times that of the U.S.

“Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds. We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing.

“Our options for growing up in a loving and accepting family, having a fruitful experience at school or finding dignified work are unimaginably limited and challenging.”

Her words were paired with a teaser of the shoot itself, featuring Sampaio wearing a minimal bikini set captured for the magazine by photographer Josie Clough on Scrub Island in the British Virgin Islands.

Sampaio has long been on a mission to reinvigorate the struggling trans rights movement in Brazil, which is essentially non-existent. Long stalled and squashed by lawmakers, and now ruled by “proud homophobe” Jair Bolsonaro, Sampaio reflected to Vogue: “We have never had a respectful place in society.

“Much like in the United States and across the globe, transgender people in Brazil are marginalized.

“We are seen as immoral and labelled as ‘something’ perverted, widely insulted, publicly beaten, and in some cases murdered.

She added: “Last year alone, we witnessed the brutal killing of 129 transgender people [in Brazil]. Our protection comes from God.

“Even with the new laws, people don’t widely respect and comply with them, and the authorities aren’t enforcing them either.”

More: Sports Illustrated, Valentina Sampaio

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